American Elephants


Some Week! Is This What We Have Come To? by The Elephant's Child

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I recommend this article and the video that accompanies it for your edification.  Those who managed and directed the disgraceful spectacular organized for a number of world leaders and small numbers of elderly veterans returning for a last look at Sword Beach, the beach where the British landed in 1944, have a lot to answer for.

The article enumerates the lip service the Western world pays to the sacrifices of military veterans and what they suffered so the rest of us might live free of such suffering.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson confirmed that another 18 veterans can be added to the death toll, now 35, of those who died because of a culture of callous indifference to the needs of veterans put on wait lists that never resulted in appointments. Cover-up and hidden or discarded lists to ensure that administrators got their bonuses and promotions. Bad publicity, not ended by jettisoning the VA secretary.

To get that off the front pages, the President announced the swap of five Taliban terrorist commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, which the administration assumed would be an heroic story of the return of a Taliban POW to the arms of his family. The White House once again tried to distract from a major scandal by instituting another major scandal. When the “honor and distinction” suggestion surfaced, Bergdahl’s platoon comrades confirmed that he had deserted his post, a court-martial offense at best. When that one didn’t work, administration nit-wits tried attacking the members of Bergdahl’s platoon as “psychopaths,” Think Progress asked “Did Sergeant Bergdahl desert the Army or did the Army desert him?” Some spin!

Notice has gone out to the military overseas about the heightened danger of kidnapping as a result of Obama’s trading 5 Taliban leaders for the American deserter. Even Taliban leaders said they would be looking for more Americans to kidnap.

Some week! Capped off with a weird  ceremony where hundreds of performers descended on Sword Beach, where they gesticulated and gyrated in something that was intended to be evocative of the struggles endured by the soldiers who slogged their way across the battlefields of Europe. The level of crass obliviousness that dreamed up this display is hard to fathom.

The high point of the video is the expression on the face of Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth as she watched the performance. That was a royal “what the hell?” expression if I’ve ever seen one. People should not forget that Princess Elizabeth enlisted and served with honor and distinction herself when her country stood alone against Nazi Germany.



Consequences. There Are Always Consequences! by The Elephant's Child

Well, a D-Day message. An Army officer serving overseas sent the following to Powerline:

Our troops serving overseas have received an e-mail from the “Threat Integration/Criminal Intelligence Branch”—e-mail subject line: “Kidnapping for Prisoner Exchange.” The message states that the risk to U.S. Soldiers of kidnapping in the wake of SGT Bergdahl’s prisoner exchange has increased. The message is issued as a result of “new operational hazards that pose a threst to personnel” with the following internal subject line:

Subject: Terrorist groups call for kidnapping of westerners and in particular U.S. Military members, combined with the recent release of U.S. Army Sgt Bergdahl increase the threat of kidnappings of military personnel.

The letter mentions that Al-Qaeda leaders (Zawahiri) encourage the kidnapping of Americans for the purpose of prisoner exchange and mentions Gilat Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas and released in exchange for 1,000 prisoners, before specifically identifying the release of SGT Bergdhal in exchange for 5 Taliban prisoners as potentially signaling to terrorists that kidnapping a soldier may increase the opportunity for release of American held prisoners.

The reason Obama did not notify Congress as the law requires is that he knew they would turn him down, because anyone even slightly familiar with war knows that the result of such action would be to endanger all Americans overseas. But he did it anyway.  Supposedly because he believed it will further conversations and negotiations with the Taliban, for whatever reason.  The Afghans in the villages were not consulted.



The Armed Forces Sweetheart of World War II by The Elephant's Child

Dame Vera Lynn, the armed forces sweetheart of World War II, celebrated her 93rd birthday last year. Her songs: We’ll Meet Again, The White Cliffs of Dover, When I Grow to Old to Dream, When the Lights Go On Again, You’ll Never Know, As Time Goes By, and There’ll Always Be an England and many more, were not just the great standards of the war years, but remain standards today.

Music was important, as it is in all wars, and the troops loved her.  Memories of long ago.   Reposted from 2011



Remember the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944 by The Elephant's Child

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Reposted from 2013 ……..………………………………………….(click to enlarge)

Major Werner Pluskat in his bunker overlooking Omaha Beach had heard nothing from his superiors. He was cold, tired and exasperated. He felt isolated. He couldn’t understand why there had been no reports from either regimental or division headquarters. …Once more he swung the artillery glasses over to the left, picked up the dark mass of the Cherbourg peninsula and began another slow sweep of the horizon. The same low banks of mist came into view, the same patches of shimmering moonlight, the same restless white flecked sea.

Behind him in the bunker his dog Harras, was stretched out asleep. Nearby , Captain Ludz Wilkening and Lieutenant Fritz Theen were talking quietly. Pluskat joined them. “Still nothing out there,” he told them.” I’m about to give it up. But he walked back to the aperture and stood looking out as the first streaks of light began to lighten the sky. He decided to make another routine sweep.

Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard.

Through the scattering thinning mist the horizon was filling with ships — ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says that in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that “this was the end for Germany.”      Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day

ADDENDUM:  The Greatest Generation is passing into history. The youngest who turned 18 in 1943 will be 95 years old in 2014. Honor them, for they saved the world at enormous cost.  Think too, of those on the home front who built the ships and planes and made the materials that won the war. They built the arsenal of Democracy.

They were slogging, unglamorous men that no one envied. No battle ensigns flew for them no horns or bugles sounded. But they had history on their side



Piper Bill Millin Pipes the Invasion Forces Ashore by The Elephant's Child

Reposted from 2010

Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s personal piper, is pictured here ready to jump from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water of Sword beach on June 6, D–Day, 1944.  Lord Lovat is thigh-deep in the water just to the left of Bill Millin’s arm.  As the Telegraph obituary says: “As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie.  He continued to pipe even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.

Millin said “I was so relieved of getting off that boat after all night being violently sick.  When I finished, Lovat asked for another tune.  Well, when I looked round — the noise and people lying about shouting and the smoke, the crump of mortars, I said to myself  “Well, you must be joking surely.” He said “What was that?” and he said “Would you mind giving us a tune?” “Well, what tune would you like, Sir?” “How about The Road to the Isles?” “Now, would you want me to walk up and down, Sir?” “Yes, That would be nice.  Yes, walk up and down.”

And that’s what Bill Millin did, walked up and down the invasion beach at water’s edge, blasting out a series of tunes.  Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf.  Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered — though one came up to Millin and called him “a mad bastard.”

For many soldiers, the piper provided a unique boost to morale.  “I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes” said One, Tom Duncan, many years later.  “It is hard to describe the impact it had.  It gave us a great lift and increased our determination.  As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

After the Great War the War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses had become too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin.  You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.”  Millin was the only piper on D-Day.

Millin died on August 17, 2010 aged 88.  He piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France, unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking.  The mayor of Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach , has offered a site for a life-size statue of Millin opposite the place where he landed on D-Day. His pipes are in the Scottish War Museum.

Bill Millin’s personal account of D-Day is found here, and the Telegraph’s obituary is here. Millin has been justly famous in all accounts of the D-Day invasion, especially his courageous march across Pegasus Bridge at the crossing of the Orne.  This may have been the last time that a Scottish piper led Scottish troops into battle.



D-Day, June 6, 1944. “The Boys of Point Du Hoc.” by The Elephant's Child
June 6, 2014, 6:22 am
Filed under: Canada, Europe, Freedom, History, Military, United Kingdom | Tags: , ,
From the Archives: D-Day, June 6, 1944. The Boys of Pointe du Hoc.

June 6, 2010

Here is Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, speaking on that windswept coast at the very spot where Allied soldiers waded ashore to liberate Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny.  He spoke to the veterans of Pointe du Hoc where he unveiled memorials to the 2nd and 5th U.S. Army Ranger battalions who stormed the cliffs.

The President and Mrs. Reagan greeted each of the veterans after the speech.  Other Allied countries represented at the ceremony by their heads of state and government were Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Olav V of Norway, King Baudouin I of Belgium, Grand Duke Jean Of Luxembourg and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.

You can read the speech or listen.  Might be a good one to share with the kids, as this is one of the great speeches. Such things are no longer a usual part of the curriculum in school, and kids need to know what their country is about, and a little about the men who fought to preserve their liberty.  The youngest of the Rangers are 95 now, and all too soon there will be none left.



From the Archives: Berlin After The War! by The Elephant's Child

Victor Davis Hanson wrote a few days ago in an excellent piece:

Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 b.c.

About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterly display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.

Eleven months to reduce the “Thousand Year Reich” to rubble. From the archives:

Berlin After the War, A Newly Unearthed Archive of Photos. by The Elephant’s Child

May 10, 2010, 1:20 pm | Edit this

Der Spiegel is featuring today a gallery of 19 photos from a recently unearthed archive, showing the devastation and the small signs of resilience of Berlin in the weeks after the surrender of the city at the end of World War II.  There are hundreds of newly discovered photographs in the archive of a Berlin publishing house that will become a book titled Berlin After the War to be published to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany, on May 9, 1945.

Forgotten for decades, a trove of post-war photographs from 1945 has recently been unearthed. The snapshots illustrate the devastation of the German capital and capture the desperation of the city in the weeks after the end of World War II. They also show glimpses of Berlin’s resilience.

The soldier with the Iron Cross on his chest lies in the middle of the street.  His steel helmet has rolled away.  The Red Army Soldiers are turning him onto his back and cleaning their weapons.  They take no notice of the photographer kneeling to take the picture. He’s already taken dozens of shots today — this time he’s just chosen a corpse for the foreground.

It’s a scene from the final days of the World War II, taken somewhere in the center of Berlin.  For decades this picture , along with thousands of others lay in the archives of a Berlin publishing house.  Unnoticed.  It is only now that the collection has come to light.

The pictures capture a moment in the city that had reached the end of 12 years of dictatorship and a devastating war: Signs of those final battles, of death, destruction and hopelessness — but also of  life growing once again among the ruins.  They are photos that portray a grotesque normalcy, in contrast to the better-known images of heroic liberation and optimistic reconstruction.  They provide documentation of the city”s downfall in the blink of an eye between an end and a beginning.  A Berlin that was just beginning to free itself from its lethargy.

The sampling of the photos is fascinating.  And the book will fill a gap in the history of the War.   For history buffs, I highly recommend Antony Beevor’s The Fall of Berlin 1945.  And from John Keegan’s The Second World War:

On the 26th of April, 464,000 Soviet troops, supported by 12,700 guns, 21,000 rocket-launchers and 1500 tanks, ringed the inner city ready to launch the final assault of the siege. The circumstances of the inhabitants were now frightful.  …Food was running short, so too was water, while the relentless bombardment had interrupted electrical and gas supplies and sewerage; behind the fighting troops, moreover, ranged those of the second echelon, many released prisoners of war with a  bitter personal grievance against Germans of any age or sex, who vented their hatred by rape, loot and murder. …

The cost to the Red Army of its victory in the siege of Berlin had also been terrible.  Between 16 April and 8 May, Zhukov, Konev and Rokossovsky’s fronts had lost 304,887 men killed, wounded and missing, 10 per cent of their strength and the heaviest casualty list suffered by the Red Army in any battle of the war.  …

Peace brought  no rest to the human flotsam of the war, which swirled in hordes between and behind the victorious armies.  Ten million Wehrmacht prisoners, 8 million German refugees, 3 million Balkan fugitives, 2 million Russian prisoners of war, slave and forced labourers by the million — and also the raw material of the ‘displaced person’ tragedy which was to haunt Europe for a decade after the war — washed about the battlefield. … in the Europe to which their soldiers had brought victory, the vanquished and their victims scratched for food and shelter in the ruins the war had wrought.




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